DDSB Facilitators offer after-school book club for teachers to expand diverse literature in their classes
|In each Diversity Book Club meeting, teachers
break into small groups to discuss their thoughts
on the chosen piece of literature.
"There's been a desire from English teachers to bring in more responsive texts," explains Christine Senior. Senior is the English Facilitator for Grades 7 to 12 at the Durham District School Board (DDSB).
This is the second year the Diversity Book Club has been offered to Grade 7 to 12 teachers in the DDSB. Last year Tara Armstrong, Literacy Coach for Grades 7 to 12, started the Diversity Book Club with the goal of introducing teachers to a broader range of texts written in authentic voices by members of communities not traditionally well-represented in English classrooms. Due to the popularity of last year's club sessions, Armstrong and Senior decided to team up to run it again.
There are four different topics: Indigenous Voices, Racialized Voices, Diverse Abilities, and LGBTQ+ Voices. There are two sessions per topic; one for Grade 7 and 8 teachers, and one for secondary teachers. This way, materials chosen for each group properly represent the student age range. Each topic also has a 'member of focus' who represents the community being discussed.
|A Grade 7/8 teacher writes down an excerpt from the novel Brown Girl Dreaming that stands out to her.
In the Indigenous Voices for secondary teachers meeting, the discussion surrounded the book
Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga. The book tells the story of seven Indigenous high school students who died in Thunder Bay, Ontario between 2000 and 2011.
Garrett Metcalfe is a teacher at Durham Alternative Secondary School (DASS) and the member of focus for the Indigenous Voices topic. Metcalfe explains, "Having these books available to students essentially gives permission and validation to teachers who might be afraid to 'speak for' a marginalized group."
In the Racialized Voices meeting for Grade 7 and 8 teachers, the chosen book was
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. The novel is about the author's childhood growing up in the 1960's in South Carolina and New York.
Alicia Russell is the Student Success Pathways Equity Coach at the DDSB, and the member of focus for the Racialized Voices topic. She spoke about a few excerpts which resonated with her, "There were definitely some things in the book that connect to my lived experience," says Russell. Russell mentioned being afraid to break barriers when you are visually different, and always being conscious of putting in more effort to access the same opportunities as others.
The Diverse Abilities and LGBTQ+ topic sessions will be held throughout January, February, and March 2019.
A diverse variety of texts
|Teachers who attend three out
of four Diversity Book Club
sessions receive a set of any six
of the literature materials discussed.
In all book club sessions, teachers sat in a circle and shared their thoughts and ideas in a safe space.
The Diverse Abilities book club meeting for Grades 7 and 8 teachers is on January 14, and will be about
Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert. The Diverse Abilities book club meeting for secondary teachers is on February 7, and will be about
Unbroken by Marieke Nijkamp. The LGBTQ+ book club meetings for Grades 7 and 8 teachers is on March 25, and will be about the short stories
Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda and
Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli. Lastly, the LGBTQ+ book club meeting for secondary teachers is on March 28, and will focus on the play
Outside by Paul Dunn.
Teachers who attend three out of four book clubs will receive a set of six of the featured titles to use as a literature circle set in their classrooms. During literature circles, students read a common novel in a small group and take on roles of discussion leader, literary luminary, or researcher in preparation for discussions. Senior explains, "Literature circles are a great way for students to have choice in what they are reading, and for their voice to be heard about their reading."
Katelynne Lo Presti, a Grade 7/8 teacher at Vaughan Willard Public School, says she's looking forward to using the literature in her classroom, "These books might resonate with some students more than others, so I will recommend them to specific students." She adds that although she will recommend books to students one-on-one, the books will also be available to all students in her classroom library.